Should Christians Practice Taekwondo?

Pastor Robert Hammond

In this brief article, I address a question that was posed to me regarding the religious aspects of Taekwondo and the suitability of Taekwondo for Christians. 

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In a 2012 article, Taekwondo teacher Ørjan Nilsen argued that practicing Taekwondo should not be viewed as a problem for Christians[1].  Essentially, he claimed that Taekwondo has no religious origin. 

However, in the same article, Nilsen acknowledged that Taekwondo has been “influenced” and “shaped” by both Buddhism and Taoism.  And he admitted that practicing Taekwondo requires knowledge of certain aspects of both Buddhism and Taoism.  Some quotes from his article include:

  •  “... The founders and early pioneers said Taekwondo did not contain any religious foundation, but that it was influenced by ...Buddhism. Taoism also played a part in shaping the culture of the founders of Taekwondo ... it too has influenced the way we practise Taekwondo…”

  • “…Besides the students oath we do have one "big" remnant from Taoism included in our studies through our practise of the Taegeuk pattern set. These patterns are in theory based on the philosophical foundation of Taoism ….”

  •  “…  Taekwondo does have influences ... that might stem from religion, and (requires) a very basic knowledge of Taoism and on a higher lever a very basic knowledge of Budhism …”

Similarly, a May 2013 article in Blackbelt magazine argues that practicing Taekwondo isn't necessarily inconsistent with Christianity.  However, the same article states, "In the martial arts, religion has an ... important role. It was crucial in the historical development of many arts, and it continues to dictate the ways in which many students think and act during practice sessions."

The above quotes document that experts in the martial arts admit: (1) Taekwondo has been influenced by both Buddhism and Taoism; (2) Practicing Taekwondo requires basic knowledge of certain aspects of both Buddhism and Taoism; (3) Students are typically influenced by the religious aspects of Taekwondo; and (4) Certain religious aspects of Taekwondo may be incompatible with Christianity.   

Why is the religious aspect of Taekwondo a problem for Christians? Buddhism is a false religion that teaches people to take refuge in Buddha, a man who is wrongly revered as a God-like being.  Similarly, Taoism is a false religion that teaches people to worship false Gods.  Taoism teaches the false doctrine of pantheism -- the idea that the universe is God.  As such, both Buddhism and Taoism are entirely incompatible with Christianity – which teaches that (1) the LORD is the one true God (1 Corinthians 8:6) and (2) faith in Jesus Christ alone is the only true way of salvation (John 14:6).  

What about those who would argue, "my class is safe because religion is never discussed?"  Consider this response from GotQuestions.org:   "the false religious overtones of Buddhism are there whether they are expressed verbally or not."  And consider this statement from the Blackbelt magazine article referenced above:  "More than a few Western students have converted to an Eastern religion simply because their martial art grew from that spiritual tradition."

Importantly, the Bible commands that we separate ourselves from false religious practices and from people who engage in those practices:  In 2 Corinthians 6:17-18, the Bible commands, “… come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

Conclusion:  Christians should refrain from participating in Taekwondo as well as all of the various other forms of the martial arts.   

1] Source:  http://jungdokwan-taekwondo.blogspot.com/2012/01/religion-and-taekwondo.html